There are two things you need to create a business, a product or service, and a marketing plan. Affiliate marketing lets you shortcut your startup time by allowing you to plug into somebody else’s product or service, and so far all of the affiliate programs I have found are free to join. All you have to do is drive traffic to their website and they take it from there.
You don’t really have to worry about a marketing plan either because once you have directed traffic to their site, they have all of ad copy to promote the product already in place. All you need to be concerned with is directing traffic and collecting a commission, which is usually a percentage of the selling price.
I have seen some affiliate programs offer commissions up to 50% of the selling price.
To get started in affiliate marketing you will need to first find a company that offers an affiliate program. They are pretty easy to find, like Amazon.com for example. I am interested in personal growth and network marketing and I was able to find several companies with affiliate programs in those fields.
Once you have found an affiliate program you want to join, you will have to create an account so that the sales you generate can be tracked and credited to you. Keep in mind that this is a business, so you will have to provide your Social Security Number so that they can report your earnings to the IRS and send you a 1099 to file with your taxes.
I am not a tax professional or accountant so you may want to talk to a professional to fully understand the ramifications of starting your own business. I have been filing a Schedule C, the self-employment single-proprietor tax form, for years and it is pretty straight forward.
Now that you have an account, you are all set to begin directing traffic to the company’s web site and generating sales for them. There are several ways to get that traffic. One easy way is to include a link in your signature on every email you send. A better way to reach more people is to add your links to your profile on websites such as Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter.
If you are a blogger, you can write a blog post about the product or service and add your link to the company website. Sites like Squidoo that let you create pages are another great place to write something about the product or service and post a link.
The second part to driving traffic is the link itself. When you created your account you were assigned an id that they will use to keep track of everything for you. They will also give you instructions about how to create your links to include your id so that clicks can be tracked and recorded properly.
A lot of companies make this easy for you by giving you the link already formatted properly or, as in the case of Amazon.com, give you a tool to generate the link. Either way, you just have to copy the link from their page and paste it on yours. They might also provide you with banner images to help draw attention to the links on your page.
The last thing to affiliate marketing is keeping track of your sales. You will probably receive an email from the company every time you generate a sale. Some also provide you with an account page where you can login to look at some statistics about the traffic you generate. They might show you how many unique visitors you have generated and how long the visitor stayed on the site. You will also see how many sales you generated and how much you have earned in commission.
To see some examples of affiliate marketing at work, check out my Resources page. Just about everything there, all of the books and personal growth programs, are links to products from companies that I have an affiliate account with. The nice thing about affiliate marketing is that I can make some extra money by helping to get the word out about companies and products that I believe in, and would be promoting whether I made money or not.
Affiliate marketing doesn’t usually generate a lot of income. Next time I will talk about a home-based business that is like affiliate marketing on steroids where you can make enough money to live comfortably.